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There are those very rare singers who become, what Duke Ellington said of Ella Fitzgerald, "beyond category. Labels like pop or jazz singer become irrelevant, and such is the case with Tony Bennett. Even when he sings a blues tune there's a buoyant optimism which suffuses all of his work. With these holiday classics it's as irrepressible as it is irresistible.
For this refurbished edition of a 1968 set, Robert Farnon's arrangements and conducting create the kind of lush orchestral sound rarely heard outside of a symphony hall. That layered richness contrasts effectively with the simplicity of Bennett's warm, gravelly voice as the fun begins with a jazzy spin on "My Favorite Things ; it's followed by a mellower take on Mel Tormé's timeless "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. An atypical holiday choice, "Where Is Love?, from Oliver!, seems poignantly apt. And if you imagine another "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town could bring on a diabetic coma, the good-natured sincerity of Bennett's version may persuade you otherwise.
The accompanying exclusive bonus DVD features selections from the television special, Tony Bennett: A Family Christmas, with the Ralph Sharon Trio's accompaniment glowing on a lightly swinging "I'll Be Home For Christmas. Family and friends provide company for Bennett on the special, and one would be hard-put to think of another performer who could make the bonhomie of this contrived gathering so credible; Bennett can and does. When he sings "Toyland to the assembled tykes who include some of his own grandchildren, his warmth is enough to get even the crustiest bahhumbuger sniffling.
Track Listing: CD: My Favorites Things; The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire); Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town; Medley: We Wish You A Merry Christmas/Silent Night; Lonely Night/O Come All Ye Faithful/Jingle Bells/Where Is Love?; Christmasland; I Love The Winter Weather/I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm; White Christmas; Winter Wonderland; Have Yourself A Merry Christmas; Snowfall; I'll Be Home For Christmas
DVD: I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm; Christmas in Herald Square; Santa Claus is Comin' To Town; I'll Be Home For Christmas; Toyland/Deck the Halls/Toyland.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.